Prevention is the only available ‘treatment’ for the mind-robbing diseases of cognitive decline and dementia. In fact, prevention of dementia is just as important as preventing other common chronic conditions that come with aging such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how?
Like these other chronic diseases, regular physical activity plays a key role in stopping the mind from deteriorating. The mind is a terrible thing to waste; and abides faithfully by the rule of ‘use it or lose it’. Many studies have produced reliable data indicating that regular physical activity can help to decrease the risk of cognitive decline.
Specifically, aerobic exercise (which increases your heart rate) in middle-aged or older adults (young women over 60!) has been reported to make significant improvements in thinking, memory, and reduced rates of dementia.
Note: When referring to ‘aerobic exercise’, it is intended to mean exercise for a sustained period of time, perhaps 20–30 minutes, done several times a week and maintained for at least a year.
You must make time daily to care for your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health.― Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!
One particular study looked at the health behaviors of over 2,000 women in Wales who were followed for 35 years. Of the five behaviors that were assessed (regular exercise, not smoking, moderate alcohol intake, healthy body weight and healthy diet), exercise had the greatest effect in terms of reducing dementia risk. Overall, women who followed four or five of the above behaviors were up to 60% less likely to develop dementia.
A recent literature review detailed that 26 out of 27 studies noted a strong link between physical activity levels and cognitive performance in women over 60 years young, suggesting that exercise might be a truly effective way to reduce cognitive decline in later life.
Keep in mind that physical exercise does not just mean playing a sport or running. It can also mean a daily activity such as brisk walking, cleaning or gardening. One study found that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced by performing daily physical tasks such as cooking and running errands.
It is not surprising that people living with untreated hearing loss are less likely to be physically active, as the effects of social isolation begin to impact daily life. Thus, the increased risk of developing dementia with untreated hearing loss, along with decreased levels of physical activity are threatening the mental capabilities of older women in our communities.
Regular physical exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can help to maintain wellbeing – both physically and mentally.
Engaging in physical activity creates valuable opportunities to socialize with others and can help improve and maintain a person’s independence. It improves self-esteem and mood, which in turn encourages more social engagement, thus contributing to better wellbeing.
So, it’s time to ramp up your activity level and take control of your cognitive destiny today! Even small decisions that we make on a daily basis can impact our future risks. This could mean simply taking a short walk around the block, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking a little further from the grocery store and walking, etc. Every little bit helps when it comes to healthy brain function and reducing your risk of dementia.
So, while there are certainly things in life that you can’t control, you do have control over your behavior and lifestyle. You should aim to get approximately 100 to 150 minutes of physical activity per week on average. Besides reducing your risk of dementia, the health benefits of physical activity are innumerable including prevention of obesity, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
While you are staying physically active, do your best to stay mentally active too! There are so many activities that can keep your mind active including socializing with friends, family (and even strangers!), reading, taking up a new hobby, playing a board game, crafting, learning a new skill, or even going back to college.
Until next time, keep your body grooving…
Did you know that 40% of cases of dementia are considered preventable? Are you aware that treating hearing loss is the #1 (of 12) modifiable lifestyle factors that can help you prevent decline? Are you worried that you are not as physically or socially active as you should be?
Tags Brain Health